I am writing this from the 30th story of an apartment hotel in Brisbane, packing for a midday flight to Singapore. Outside the sky is clear, the humidity is uncomfortable and there is a burn time 6 minutes advertised in the lobby. Now it is an eight minute walk to the station for the air train, I left my hat at home, have little or no hair left on my head and no chemicals to protect my Northern European skin. I realise this shows our unhealthy obsession with numbers and of course I could just get a taxi but then I would miss out on public transport. Aside from walking this week, I have found my way around the river transport system in Brisbane and used the train and buses in preference to the taxi. I don’t like using taxis for one simple reason: you gain no knowledge of the city you are in.
Its bad enough at the best of times if you travel. Airports, lounges, hotels, meeting rooms and international English blur into a homogenous uniformity. Most of the time you could be anywhere. On the other hand if you use public transport you a chance, however fleeting, to encounter local culture and geography. The meandering Brisbane River adds confusion to its geography, but once you see the patterns from both the pavements and the river, the overall pattern of the city settles on your brain. You meet families on a day out, business people with time between meetings to take a slightly longer route, by any journey on water is more attractive than the city streets. On the train in a few hours time I will hear many accents and see people from all aspects of Brisbane society. If I went around in taxis I would have no sense of how one location relates to another, or the areas change in style and ambiance. To travel is a privilege, a chance to gain a wider understanding of diversity. Using taxis reduces that opportunity, it increases the disconnection that continuous travel creates with normal life,
So, I will walk the eight minutes to the station for the airport train, seeking shade as I go. Pride prevents the use of the knotted handkerchief.
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